Toronto Blue Jays Rumors

Toronto Blue Jays trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Blue Jays Designate Steve Tolleson

The Blue Jays have activated infielder Steve Tolleson from the DL and designated him for assignment, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets. With Tolleson’s rehab assignment done, the club was forced to make a decision on his roster status.

With Devon Travis and Jose Reyes both healthy and set to play regularly, and Ryan Goins and Danny Valencia set to take the club’s reserve infield slots, Tolleson simply didn’t fit on the 25-man. But he has been useful this year in limited action, hitting a solid .268/.333/.439 over 45 plate appearances.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether the 31-year-old will remain in the Toronto organization. If he clears waivers, he’ll have a choice whether to elect free agency, as is his right given that he’s previously been outrighted.


AL East Notes: Buchholz, Donaldson, Warren, Norris

Though Clay Buchholz figures to draw plenty of interest on this year’s trade market, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald opines that the Red Sox should be steadfast in their refusal to trade him. Lauber notes that Buchholz, earning $12MM in 2015, is slated to earn $13MM and $13.5MM via club options over the next two seasons — bargain rates for a pitcher with his talent, even if it comes with inconsistency and injury risk. Meanwhile, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal takes a different approach, opining that the Red Sox owe it to themselves to at least entertain offers for Buchholz. MacPherson looks back to last year’s return for 1.5 years of Jeff Samardzija and notes that 2.5 years of Buchholz could bring a similarly strong return. Though the team will need pitching in 2015, MacPherson writes that Buchholz’s value is unlikely to ever be higher, and a team willing to pay for the type of pitching he’s been doing over his past 10 starts (2.33 ERA) may very well make too good of an offer to refuse. MacPherson wonders if old friends Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, now with the Cubs, would be interested in parting with some premium young talent to acquire Buchholz.

A few more notes from the AL East…

  • Prior to the Red Sox‘ signing of Pablo Sandoval last year, the team inquired with the Athletics about Josh Donaldson but were told he was not available, reports Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. That would seem to line up, to some extent, with comments from A’s officials early last winter indicating that little consideration would be given to moving Donaldson. (“That would be stupid,” one official told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser last October.) Donaldson, of course, wound up with the division-rival Blue Jays and is enjoying a monster season.
  • With Ivan Nova now healthy and back in the Yankees‘ rotation, Adam Warren will shift into the team’s bullpen, the right-hander tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. As Feinsand notes, Warren was the likeliest candidate to do so, given his recent success in the bullpen and the fact that he’s already exceeded last year’s innings total while working as a starter.
  • Bud Norris has struggled a good deal for the Orioles this season, but there’s no current talk of removing him from Baltimore’s rotation, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Some have speculated that Norris is pressing in light of his upcoming free agency, and as Connolly writes, Norris indirectly touched on that topic following another rough start Monday. “I don’t know where my future’s gonna take me,” he said. “All know is I can handle what’s in front of me right now and trying to work through this is the No. 1 priority and getting back out there and helping my team win games.” Norris said he’s not worried about the possibility of losing a starting spot to Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright or Tyler Wilson, but Connolly wonders how long the club will stick with the struggling veteran.
  • Manager Buck Showalter told reporters, including MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli, that the Orioles are trying to get Norris on a roll. “That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Showalter. “He has some periods where he’s pitched well, but not as consistent as he did for a long period of time last year, and will again. I try to keep in mind we haven’t even played half the season yet and Bud will do some good things for us.”

Draft Signings: Abdullah, Simcox, Pruitt

We’ll keep tabs on the day’s notable draft signings here, with slot values via Baseball America.

  • Dodgers eleventh rounder Imani Abdullah will sign for $647,500, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com tweets. SB Nation’s Eric Stephen has done some digging on the young hurler, who is fairly new to the mound and did not earn placement on any major prospect lists. He had been set to play for San Diego State University. All but $100K of L.A.’s spending on the projectable righty must be accounted for from its overall bonus allocation. The Dodgers have yet to agree to terms with many of their picks from the first ten rounds, including four of their first five selections (three of whom just finished playing in the finals of the College World Series).
  • The Tigers have agreed to a $600K bonus to land 14th-round pick A.J. Simcox, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports on Twitter. A half-million of that payday will count towards the club’s overall pool limits. The University of Tennessee product is said to be a slick defensive shortstop. Baseball America graded him the 217th-best player available, saying that Simcox has a “line-drive swing” but has shown little in the way of power potential.
  • Another $500K bonus is set to hit the books, this one going from the Blue Jays to 24th-round pick Reggie Pruitt, Callis tweets. The Vanderbilt commit drew some relatively high grades entering the draft, with Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs placing him 146th on his list. MLB.com had the outfielder in the 189th slot on its board, crediting him with outstanding speed while noting that his swing mechanics need work.


Blue Jays Expect To Be Active On Pitching Market

Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos indicated that he’s working hard to add pitching this summer in an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The FAN (article via Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith). And he left little doubt that he sees the club as a buyer.

“We still need to make upgrades in the rotation and the bullpen, that goes without saying,” said the Jays GM. “I’d love to land both. What we come away with or don’t come away with, I have no idea. Clearly we’re looking to be active. We’re looking to add and make the club a lot better.”

As Nicholson-Smith explains, there is at least some hope of an internal boost as well. Just-promoted rookie Matt Boyd is interesting enough to get a showcase, and the club expects to welcome Aaron Sanchez back from the DL in the near future. While Toronto anticipates that Sanchez will start, Anthopoulos says his role will depend upon the state of the rotation. And there’s even some possibility — albeit, perhaps, fairly remote — that Marcus Stroman could attempt a late-season return, though the team will surely err well on the side of caution with the prized righty.

Interestingly, Anthopoulos also discussed his broader strategy on the market, citing legendary investor Warren Buffett in saying: “It’s better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.” As Nicholson-Smith notes, value-based dealing was something of a hallmark of the GM’s earlier years, but it seems that his outlook has evolved somewhat.

One undoubtedly high-quality and high-value asset that the Blue Jays possess is the contractual control over third baseman Josh Donaldson, who can be retained via arbitration through the 2018 season. That makes an extension more a future consideration, per Anthopoulos. “There’s no sense of  urgency since we still have him for a very long time,” he explained.


AL West Notes: Hamilton, Kazmir, A’s, Ichiro

Josh Hamilton could return from the DL as early as Monday, and he could be coming back to the Rangers as a center fielder.  As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes, Hamilton played center in each of his last two minor league rehab games and he could displace the struggling Leonys Martin from the starting CF job.  Hamilton has only played 13 games in center since the start of the 2013 season, and while his advanced defensive metrics have varied from year to year, Hamilton has below-average numbers (-8.4 UZR/150 and -16 defensive runs saved) over his career as a center fielder.  Here’s more from around the AL West…

  • Several clubs have been scouting Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir recently but, for his part, the veteran doesn’t want to leave Oakland, as John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group writes.  “I would love to stay here. This is a group of guys I love being around. When you go up and down the team, the organizational staff, there’s a lot to like. I’d like to stay here,” Kazmir said.  Hickey notes that scouts from the Astros and Blue Jays were on hand Saturday as the 31-year-old pitched against the Royals.
  • Also from Hickey, he questions why the A’s have kept Max Muncy on the MLB roster when there’s no obvious route for him to find any playing time, a situation that doesn’t help the team or the player.  Muncy has only played in two of Oakland’s last 11 games, and Hickey wonders if this rustiness might’ve contributed to a key throwing error Muncy made during today’s 5-3 loss to the Royals.
  • Could the Mariners look to reunite with Ichiro SuzukiGeoff Baker of the Seattle Times opines that Ichiro could be a good fit for the team, as he would add some defensive help to the outfield and also add a contact bat with a bit of on-base ability to the struggling M’s lineup.  Baker doesn’t suggest the club should give up anything too valuable for Ichiro, as the Mariners are already on the fringes of the playoff race.

Astros Targeting Cueto Over Hamels

In recent weeks, the Astros have been connected to Phillies ace Cole Hamels, but it doesn’t sound as though he’s their top pitching target.  Instead, it’s Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto that is atop Houston’s wish list, according to sources who spoke with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.

One of the main reasons for their preference of Cueto over Hamels is that the Astros are seeking out a 2015 rental or possibly someone whose contract runs for one more year.  With a hefty contract that runs through 2018, Hamels simply doesn’t fit the bill.  Cueto, meanwhile, is only owed the prorated portion of his 2015 salary of $10MM, which is a little over $5MM the rest of the way.  Hamels, meanwhile, is set to earn the balance of his $22.5MM salary for the remainder of this season, $22.5MM in the next three seasons, and a $20MM option/$6MM buyout that can vest with good health and a certain number of innings pitched.

For his part, Hamels recently indicated that he would be “open-minded” to being traded to any team, including the Astros.  Instead, it sounds like Houston has their attention focused on the Reds’ pitching, where other suitors include the Dodgers, Yankees, and Blue Jays, a source tells Drellich.  All in all, Drellich hears that the Phillies have been pumping up the perception of the Astros’ interest as negotiating leverage in talks about Hamels.

The Astros are casting a wide net in their effort to add a solid starter to their rotation to go with Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Vincent Velasquez, and Lance McCullers.  In addition to Cueto and Mike Leake, the Astros are doing their homework on A’s lefty Scott Kazmir, Brewers right-handers Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse, and White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija.


Cafardo On Buchholz, Samardzija, Cueto, Hamels

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe pit Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts against Tigers shorstop Jose Iglesias.  Of course, Boston once had both, but Iglesias was shipped out in 2013 in a three-team deal that brought Jake Peavy to Fenway.  Bogaerts offers more potential as a hitter, but Iglesias clearly has the superior glove.  That difference in the field never made Bogaerts doubt himself, however.

No, that’s just a guy who’s really gifted beyond anyone else,” Bogaerts said. “I just paid attention to trying to get better. I never compared myself to him because you can’t compare anyone to him. He’s a great defensive player and flashy.”

More from today’s column..

  • The same teams that are pursuing Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz are going after White Sox hurler Jeff Samardzija.  That list of teams includes the Royals, Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, Yankees, Cardinals, Orioles, Angels, and Dodgers, according to Cafardo.  Late last week, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Astros are also interested in Samardzija.  Meanwhile, at this time, the Red Sox reportedly are not interested in moving Buchholz.
  • The Astros are a team to watch in July as they could get very aggressive in their pursuit of a starter.  Cafardo hears that the Astros have been evaluating Reds pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake quite a bit.  Cole Hamels obviously stands as one of the biggest prizes out there, but Cafardo feels he likely wouldn’t sign off on a trade to Houston.  Over the weekend, Hamels indicated that he would be “open-minded” to being traded to any team.
  • Giants GM Bobby Evans told Cafardo that his club is out of the starting pitching market for now thanks to the upcoming returns of Matt Cain and Jake Peavy.
  • The Phillies would like to sell off their pieces little by little rather than make a ton of deals right at the deadline.  However, Cafardo hears that teams aren’t coming to the table with actual offers yet, leaving the Phillies frustrated.
  • Baseball execs who spoke with Cafardo say the Mets are still the best match for Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.  A package for Tulo could start with left-hander Steven Matz, who makes his big league debut today.
  • Even at his advanced age, one NL evaluator feels that Phillies veteran Carlos Ruiz is still “a better option than “more than 50 percent of the catchers in the league.”
  • Some teams are concerned with Hamels’ poor performance in interleague play while others see it just as a fluky thing.  Hamels has a career 4.73 ERA across 31 interleague starts.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Padres, Niese, Cubs, Jays

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video at FOX Sports:

  • At 36-40, the Padres have considered buying as well as selling at the trade deadline. They could pursue a shortstop and left-handed hitter if they buy. If they sell, they could consider dealing Justin Upton, James Shields and Craig Kimbrel. Upton is the only one of the three who’s eligible for free agency after the season, though, and the Padres might not want to tear down entirely, since they’re hosting the All-Star Game next year.
  • The Cubs have considered dealing for Mets left-hander Jon Niese, although they might also aim higher. The salary remaining on Niese’s current deal (he’ll make $9MM next year, plus a $500K buyout or $10MM option in 2016) might also be a slight obstacle to trading him.
  • The Blue Jays are interested in pitching, but also perhaps in outfield help. Acquiring an outfielder would help the Jays to keep top young player Dalton Pompey in the minors — he’s currently hitting very well for Double-A New Hampshire after struggling in both the big leagues and in Triple-A this year.
  • Former Padres manager Bud Black could be a possibility for the Braves if they eventually decide to replace Fredi Gonzalez. Black worked for the Indians front office when current Braves GM John Hart was in Cleveland, and Braves president John Schuerholz traded for Black all the way back in 1982, when Schuerholz was GM of the Royals.

Johan Santana Ends 2015 Comeback Bid

Two-time American League Cy Young winner Johan Santana has ended his bid for a comeback this season, reports ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. The longtime Twins and Mets hurler will again attempt a comeback in the 2016 season, Rubin adds.

The 36-year-old Santana signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays this offseason in hopes of returning to a Major League mound for the first time since the 2012 season. Santana was recovering from an Achilles injury that cut short his 2014 comeback attempt, and lately he’s been slowed by an infection in his toe. Because of that, he felt he would not have sufficient time to ramp up and get into Major League shape by the time the issue had healed.

A pair of major shoulder surgeries has significantly shortened the career of Santana, who was unquestionably one of the most dominant — and arguably the most dominant — pitchers in the game for a period of time in the mid-2000s. From 2004-10, Santana posted a 2.87 ERA with 8.8 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9, averaging 216 innings per season. His ERA+ over that stretch was a remarkable 151, indicating that he was 51 percent better than the league-average pitcher in that stretch. Santana totaled three straight seasons worth seven or more wins above replacement and, in the estimation of many, should have won three consecutive Cy Young Awards. (He won in ’04 and ’06, but Bartolo Colon took home first-place honors in ’05, largely on the strength of his 21 wins, as Santana was superior in most other categories.)


Phil Coke Declines Optional Assignment, Elects Free Agency

Lefty Phil Coke has declined an optional assignment with the Blue Jays, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca tweets. As was his right given his 6+ years of service, Coke has elected free agency.

Coke, 32, had allowed just one earned run in 2 2/3 innings in Toronto, striking out three but walking two. Combined with his stint with the Cubs earlier in the year, he owns a 5.68 ERA with 8.5 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 on the year.

Though he’s continued to bounce around, Coke figures to have another big league shot in relatively short order. His velocity is down a tick from last year, but he still brings 92 to 93 mph heat from the left side and has fairly promising peripherals. SIERA values his contributions this year at a 3.15 earned run equivalency, while FIP likewise shows him at a promising 3.39 mark.